Thursday, December 5, 2019

Our Responsibility Is Not To Save But To Shine

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” – Ephesians 3:20-21

Times have changed since I was a young boy.  I suppose that is true for every generation.  Our country is in moral decline and that decline seems to be accelerating.  A preacher said that the greatest spiritual growth is happening in third world countries.  Perhaps that is because great wealth and possession encourages independent thinking – “I don’t need God” thinking.

We should be concerned for the souls of the people who think that way – who reject God, shun the Spirit and mock the Way and Truth and Life. Can things get any worse in this land? The answer is “Yes they can.”  But I would encourage you to rest on this one thing – Our God Reigns! That will never change – generations will come and go – the morality of the nations will rise and fall – like the tides of the sea – but God will always be God –  Jesus will always be the Way – people will always need a Savior.

Our place in all of this is to shine brightly in the midst of the darkness. The darker the night – the brighter the light.  When ever I write that, I remember flying a helicopter in the desert. No lights anywhere. Sometimes hard to see the horizon – the sky blending in with the ground – but then – someone would break a chem-stick – just a small thing – it produced a soft glow – green or red – but I could see it from far off.  That is like our light.  Our responsibility is not to save but to shine.

Don’t for a minute think that all hope is lost – our God reigns – He is an eternal source of hope – spanning the generations – even ours and that of our children and their children.

Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!

For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle.

Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” – Psalm 43:1-5

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Why Is The Spirit Of God Important

“So he [an angel] said to me [Zechariah], “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [the leader of the tribe of Judah at the time of their return from captivity in Babylon]: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.’” – Zechariah 4:6

I am an observer of people. I think most of us are.  I am not one who sits on a bench in the mall to watch people walk by. I observe the people that I meet every day to discern the condition and motivation of their hearts.  I listen to what people say and what they don’t say.  One thing that I have noticed is the deafening silence among Christians when it comes to the presence and significance of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The angel told Zechariah, the prophet, to tell Zerubbabel, the leader, to not forget that what God had tasked him to do – built the temple – could only be accomplished by the power of the Spirit of God – not by the effort of men.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

I would venture to say that most if not all Christians are familiar with that verse. And, no doubt, they would nod their heads in agreement that it is true.  But I doubt that they understand the implications.  That being that all things are, well, all things.  Every aspect of our lives, not just the hard things.  Our new life in Christ is spiritual in its essence.  It is not merely a ticket in our pocket that says “Free Pass Into Heaven”. So we can continue to live and trust in ourselves but everything that is too hard then we scurry off to God asking for relief.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” – Romans 8:13

The Spirit enables our new life and His presence is essential to it.  Ephesians 1 says God sealed us with His Spirit. The Spirit of God is in each of us.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

It is so easy to do something that God has called you to and quickly, but not intentionally, lose sight of the importance of the Spirit of God in the accomplishment.  Apart from God’s Spirit being active in what I do in disaster relief, I am nothing more than a benevolent contractor. It is merely a job that does not pay very well. But it is so much more than that! I see God at work, bringing the impossible into the realm of possibility. Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit.  Hallelujah! Amen!

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Our Struggle With Wanting To Stay In The Boat

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:24

I met a homeowner yesterday – a thirty something-ish wife and mother.  She and her husband need help with their home.  They have been living in a “mess” for two years.  Although I could see she was tired of seeing the “mess” day after day, she seemed to be at peace with it.  After we walked through the house we were also given to get a glimpse of her heart for the Lord. She is a Christian and when she talked about her faith – her eyes brightened and her smile widened. It was then that she shared that she taught American Sign Language and wanted to use that skill in the church she attended to help the deaf community engage in the worship service in a deeper way. But, she said – she was concerned that doing it would be seen as vanity and pride.

I told her that my wife just had spinal surgery.  The neuro-surgeon did an amazing job and not once did I see him as being prideful or vane – but as someone exercising his skills and abilities for the good of others. I told her that, in the same way, what the Spirit was prompting her to do was merely exercising her skills and abilities for the good of others. Why did I say the Spirit was prompting her? Because it was clear to me that He was.  What she was lacking was faith and what she was struggling with was fear.  Serving God is no small thing – knowing who you are – a jar of clay – and what He is calling you to do – to do something with spiritual consequence – is cause for the one who is called to be a bit trepidatious. (love that word!)

God calls, prepares and sends.  We typically don’t have a problem with the first two – it is the last one – that one is the cause of our trouble and our missing God’s best.  When we look at ourselves and consider who we are and who God is – we doubt that we can or should do what He says. Dr. Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God said that knowing what God says is not really the problem. Obeying what He says to do is the problem.

My new friend is in a faith struggle – and perhaps you are in one yourself.  You know what God has said you are to do – He has equipped you to do it – but you struggle with doubt that you can do it.  Well – you can’t.  Not on your own.  The ten spies who said “Don’t cross the Jordan” were not looking to God – they were looking at themselves and the Giants who lived on the other side of the river.  God never calls you to do something that you can do on your own – it is always bigger than you – heavier that you can lift – always ripe with feelings of trepidation.  The only way you can possible succeed is through faith.

I struggle with this all of the time. It is always a temptation to look at the waves rolling around you and remind yourself that you should not have gotten out of the boat. It seems a lot safer there – it is unless it is Jesus who has called you to step out of the boat to walk with Him. We often prefer to define our own space – the limits of what we are willing to do for God. I am reminded of the song lyrics, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all – All to Thee my blessed savior. I surrender all.” And that my friend is what is necessary to walk in obedience to your calling.

‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” – Matthew 14:28-31

It is time to get out of the boat and let your light shine.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, December 2, 2019

When A Sacrifice Is Not A Sacrifice

“But the king [David] replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’” – 2 Samuel 24:24

The back story to this conversation was that David had allowed his pride to get the best of him and wanted to consider what a great and powerful king he was. So he told Joab, his commander, to number the soldiers.  Joab advised David not to do it, but David would not be convinced otherwise.  God’s anger rose up against David because David was robbing God of His glory.  God brought a plague on the land as a consequence.  God stayed His hand at the door of Araunah’s threshing floor.  David wanted to buy the threshing floor and build an altar to God to make a sacrifice for his sin. Araunah wanted to give the building, the oven, and the wooden implements to David, but David refused. 

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it does not cost you something.  If you give out of your excess – what is that to God – like giving Him scraps after a meal.  After you have satisfied yourself.  God asks for a tithe – not out of what is left  – but out of the whole.  But God asks for much more than that.  He asks for your whole heart – not just part of it.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2

Paul said that we are not to give God 10% of ourselves, but 100%. The world argues that 10% is too much.  Indulge yourself in the world and then if you have some spare change – put in God’s cup like He is a beggar standing on the street corner.  You know the one – the one you try not to make eye contact with when you are stopped at a traffic light.

It is December – Black Friday just happened – our culture promotes the idea that we should buy what is not needed using credit we can’t afford with a promise to pay it off with a tax return that we are not guaranteed.  What if the Spirit spoke to you and said – “Don’t buy anything this Christmas – give the money to those who have nothing to eat.” What reasons would rise up on why that is a bad idea. Do you think that the Spirit of God has bad ideas? What you feel is the tension between the flesh and the spirit. Would you dismiss the idea as too extreme?

We are very willing to sacrifice for others, but not so willing to sacrifice to God if it means it will cost us something.  Some years ago, Martie asked me if I regretted leaving the Army in the midst of a successful career.  The Lord had told me to lay my career in the Army down on the altar.  I told her, “no – I do not regret it – but I do miss it”.  God asked me to sacrifice my career for something greater – my family. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it costs you something.  Even today, I will watch helicopters fly overhead and remember a time when it was me flying it. Making sacrifices of the heart is “true and proper worship”. But if you are not right spiritually, you are not likely to do what is right before God, but will do what is pleasing to the world.

I [Paul] say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” – Galatians 5:16-17

I am not suggesting you return the gifts you have purchased.  What I am saying is that this might be a good time to examine your heart and then lay your heart, and its devotions, down on the altar as a sacrifice to God for His glory and the good of others.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone